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When will a Project loan will become NPA and is it possible to restructure it?

This is a question which is being faced by many entreprenuers in infrastructure sector who had availed of project loan from various banks. There is lack of clarity in this and many of the banks are providing wrong advices to its customers, either due to simple ignorance or with some intentional motives.

In this article I am trying to make you understand about the circumstances which will make your insfrastrucure project loan an NPA and the eligiblity creiteria for restructuring the same.

There are occasions when the completion of projects is delayed for legal and other extraneous reasons like delays in Government approvals etc. All these factors, which are beyond the control of the promoters, may lead to delay in project implementation and involve restructuring / reschedulement of loans by banks. Accordingly, the following asset classification norms would apply to the project loans before commencement of commercial operations. These guidelines will, however, not be applicable to restructuring of advances covered under the paragraph 14.1 of this Master Circular (Advances classified as Commercial Real Estate exposures; Advances classified as Capital Market exposure; and Consumer and Personal Advances) which will continue to be dealt with in terms of the extant provisions i.e paragraph 14.1 of the circular.

For this purpose, all project loans have been divided into the following two categories :
(a) Project Loans for infrastructure sector
(b) Project Loans for non-infrastructure sector

'Project Loan' would mean any term loan which has been extended for the purpose of setting up of an economic venture. Banks must fix a Date of Commencement of Commercial Operations (DCCO) for all project loans at the time of sanction of the loan / financial closure (in the case of multiple banking or consortium arrangements).

Project Loans for Infrastructure Sector
(i) A loan for an infrastructure project will be classified as NPA during any time before commencement of commercial operations as per record of recovery (90 days overdue), unless it is restructured and becomes eligible for classification as 'standard asset' in terms of paras (iii) to (v) below.
(ii) A loan for an infrastructure project will be classified as NPA if it fails to commence commercial operations within two years from the original DCCO, even if it is regular as per record of recovery, unless it is restructured and becomes eligible for classification as 'standard asset' in terms of paras (iii) to (v) below.
(iii) If a project loan classified as 'standard asset' is restructured any time during the period up to two years from the original date of commencement of commercial operations (DCCO), in accordance with the provisions of Part B of this Master Circular, it can be retained as a standard asset if the fresh DCCO is fixed within the following limits, and further provided the account continues to be serviced as per the restructured terms.
(a)  Infrastructure Projects involving court cases
Up to another 2 years (beyond the existing extended period of 2 years i.e total extension of 4 years), in case the reason for extension of date of commencement of production is arbitration proceedings or a court case.
(b)  Infrastructure Projects delayed for other reasons beyond the control of promoters
 Up to another 1 year (beyond the existing extended period of 2 years i.e. total extension of 3 years), in other than court cases.
(iv) It is re-iterated that the dispensation in above is subject to adherence to the provisions regarding restructuring of accounts as contained in the Master Circular which would inter alia require that the application for restructuring should be received before the expiry of period of two years from the original DCCO and when the account is still standard as per record of recovery. The other conditions applicable would be:
a. In cases where there is moratorium for payment of interest, banks should not book income on accrual basis beyond two years from the original DCCO, considering the high risk involved in such restructured accounts.

Eligibility criteria for restructuring of advances
Banks may restructure the accounts classified under 'standard', 'sub-standard' and 'doubtful' categories.
  1. Banks cannot reschedule / restructure /renegotiate borrowal accounts with retrospective effect. While a restructuring proposal is under consideration, the usual asset classification norms would continue to apply. The process of re- classification of an asset should not stop merely because restructuring proposal is under consideration. The asset classification status as on the date of approval of the restructured package by the competent authority would be relevant to decide the asset classification status of the account after restructuring / rescheduling / renegotiation. In case there is undue delay in sanctioning a restructuring package and in the meantime the asset classification status of the account undergoes deterioration, it would be a matter of supervisory concern.
  2. Normally, restructuring cannot take place unless alteration / changes in the original loan agreement are made with the formal consent / application of the debtor. However, the process of restructuring can be initiated by the bank in deserving cases subject to customer agreeing to the terms and conditions.
  3. No account will be taken up for restructuring by the banks unless the financial viability is established and there is a reasonable certainty of repayment from the borrower, as per the terms of restructuring package. The viability should be determined by the banks based on the acceptable viability benchmarks determined by them, which may be applied on a case-by-case basis, depending on merits of each case. Illustratively, the parameters may include the Return on Capital Employed, Debt Service Coverage Ratio, Gap between the Internal Rate of Return and Cost of Funds and the amount of provision required in lieu of the diminution in the fair value of the restructured advance. The accounts not considered viable should not be restructured and banks should accelerate the recovery measures in respect of such accounts. Any restructuring done without looking into cash flows of the borrower and assessing the viability of the projects / activity financed by banks would be treated as an attempt at ever greening a weak credit facility and would invite supervisory concerns / action.
  4. While the borrowers indulging in frauds and malfeasance will continue to remain ineligible for restructuring, banks may review the reasons for classification of the borrowers as wilful defaulters specially in old cases where the manner of classification of a borrower as a wilful defaulter was not transparent and satisfy itself that the borrower is in a position to rectify the wilful default. The restructuring of such cases may be done with Board's approval, while for such accounts the restructuring under the CDR Mechanism may be carried out with the approval of the Core Group only.
  5. BIFR cases are not eligible for restructuring without their express approval. CDR Core Group in the case of advances restructured under CDR Mechanism / the lead bank in the case of SME Debt Restructuring Mechanism and the individual banks in other cases, may consider the proposals for restructuring in such cases, after ensuring that all the formalities in seeking the approval from BIFR are completed before implementing the package

From this it is clear that an account will become an NPA only after the expiry of the 2 years from the DCCO and the same can be restructured if the status of the facility is that of a standard asset